Hilltop Homestead offers riding lessons & more

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The Hefel family, front from left ,are Brianna, Eneasha and Kaleb; back row, Christa, Ricky, Brysen, Brayden, Aiden, Austin, Samantha, William and Tango the horse. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

In 2020, Christa and Ricky Hefel launched Hilltop Homestead, located at 32817 Kale Avenue near Guttenberg. The ambitious entrepreneurs had a vision to provide northeast Iowans with a high-quality farm experience. Hilltop Homestead raises a variety of animals, including horses, goats, alpacas, llama, rabbits, dogs, cats, sheep and chickens. The State-certified homestead also provides boarding for dogs and horses, and offers horseback riding lessons and day camps.  

Educational opportunity

"I started Hilltop Homestead because I have a passion for horses and teaching others about them," explained Christa. "My children were getting old enough and we were done fostering that I had more time available. Additionally, I wanted to share my love for horses with them. In the future I would love to do equine therapy with adults and children. I need to get another masters to accomplish this and that will come in time." 

Christa and Ricky used the family-run business as a hands-on educational opportunity for their older children. "In my passion came a huge opportunity for my older children who absolutely love sports," Christa told The Press. "We had an opportunity to show them how to become entrepreneurs and make money while working on the farm. My 16-year-old helps manage the horse side of the business and last year my 18-year-old started managing the dog-boarding business. We teach them the financial piece, marketing and management of the business.  They have to keep their time sheet, ask for time off and do all of those skills that they would need to do in any business. It has been an educational adventure!"

Future homesteaders

The Hefels would like to become homesteaders – individuals who seek a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. "Eventually we would like to get to the point of being able to live off of our production," she shared. "Currently, that is not an option as we have a lot of people and a lot of things going on with limited time to do it fully. But currently we produce our own meat, eggs and many vegetables in the summer that we preserve. We are hoping to get started on milking our goats this summer as well!" 

  Christa is employed by Four Oaks Family Connections as a Recruitment and Training Manager. She supervises the recruiting and training coordinators across the state of Iowa and manages some of the staff training as well.  "I primarily work from home and do some travel to our offices," she noted. 

The Hefel household includes Aiden, 5, Brysen, 7, Brayden, 8, Brianna, 8, Eneasha, 12, Kaleb, 13, Samantha, 16, William,18, Austin, 20 and Kalkidan, 27. "Our children love the animals. It is definitely a group activity to get the chores all done and maintenance on these animals and buildings," she said with a smile. "Some of our children enjoying riding for one day a year and some enjoy riding daily or weekly.  We don't push them into it— if they want to they can.  If they don't that is fine too."

Passion for horses/farming 

Christa has always loved animals and been drawn to farming. "I grew up in Dyersville, but throughout my childhood loved to go to my friends' houses and do chores with their family," she commented. "When I was in high school I got to know a local family that raised horses and offered lessons."

Christa attended Loras College, Dubuque, and took an equine class, then eventually moved to Greeley where she boarded horses and offered lessons to children. During that time she attended Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids and completed a year in its equine program. "I have a love of many different animals and our farm definitely shows it!" she exclaimed.

Day camps

Hilltop Homestead offers day camps from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. on several dates through the summer. Campers need to bring their own lunch and water bottle. Snacks and activities are provided. "We do lots of different activities for campers such as arts and crafts, learning about horses and other animals, learning about equipment, leading horses, grooming horses, riding horses and, if they desire, learning about training," said Christa "This summer we will also have bunnies, baby goats, puppies, kittens and hopefully a baby mini donkey as well!"

Horseback riding lessons

Horseback riding lessons, which teach students how to groom, lead and ride a horse, last one hour and cost $25 per student. A punch card of 11 lessons (one lesson free) can be purchased for $250. Two students per hour cost $35, or a punch card for $350. "We have tried doing some group lessons in May on Sunday nights for $20 from 3-5 p.m.," Christa added. 

Party space

Hilltop Homestead's spacious party room is the perfect place to host a birthday celebration. "We host birthday parties, and pony rides or horse rides can be included for an additional $20," she said. "We typically have whatever animals the family wants available for the children to play with – goats, alpacas, sheep, etc." 

Hilltop Homestead Petting Zoo will be at the Guttenberg Farmers Market on June 18, July 2 and September 24. 

Find additional information online at https://hilltophomesteadwe.wixsite.com/mysite-1, or find them on Facebook.

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